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Risk and resilience: Effects of adverse childhood experiences

In a recent conversation, someone suggested that many people are damaged in childhood. Then they spend the rest of their lives trying to fix it.

The words instigate some profound thought. Everyone is a product of the environment in which they grew up and childhood experiences help to form the adults that each person becomes. For some – too many? – the term, ACE (adverse childhood experiences) comes into play. As we become adults, we get to choose how we want to live our lives, or should.

ACE is used to classify types of abuse, neglect and other potentially traumatic experiences that occur to people under the age of 18, says CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.)

During the late 1990s, researchers looked at the data they received from a study in Southern California conducted among some 17,000 persons in an HMO who responded to a confidential questionnaire when they had physical examinations. The study asked about adverse conditions that they patients experienced when they were children. The researchers wanted to know if those childhood experiences affected them when they were older adults. The short answer: Yes.

You can take the ACE quiz online (https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/). It measures 10 types of childhood trauma, five personal (physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect and emotional neglect) and five related to other family members (alcoholic parent, mother was a victim of domestic violence, a member of the family was incarcerated, a family member with mental illness or suicidal attempts, a parent lost through divorce, death or abandonment.

“Toxic stress damages the structure and function of a child’s developing brain,” according to the authors of this source.

CADCA advises, “The presence of ACEs does not necessarily lead to a child experiencing poor outcomes. However, a child’s positive experiences (protective factors) can prevent them from experiencing adversity and can protect against many of the negative health and life-long outcomes, even after adversity has occurred.”

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) urge that we all need to prevent ACEs “by assuring safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children.” ACEs are linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death.

Resilience has a place in this story. Asking for help isn’t showing weakness. It’s actually a strength. When we build support systems with the people we work with they actually become allies. Nobody can cope with everything alone. The other thing, the thing that so many of us stopped trusting long ago, is that little voice inside that tells us about our feelings. It’s important to listen to that voice.

Resilience also can be tested online at https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/resilience-quiz.htm. And as you work on developing your resilience, you will be better armed to cope with the setbacks that hold you back from achieving your best dreams and goals.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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